Journalist, Dallas Morning News political reporter and author Wayne Slater killed in car crash


AUSTIN – Retired Dallas Morning News Austin bureau chief and senior political writer Wayne Slater, who has chronicled the rise of two Texas governors and co-authored two books on George W. Bush’s adviser Karl Rove, has died Monday in a car crash in Williamson County. He was 74 years old.

Slater died in a two-car crash at around 10:33 a.m. Monday at FM 487 and Chris Lane near Florence, said Sgt. Deon Cockrell of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Cockrell had no further details, claiming that a soldier was still working at the crash site.

Two friends said Slater, who lived nearby, was involved in a head-on collision.

Slater loved it personally, even though he trained and supervised tough cover from former governors. Ann Richards, a Democrat, and George W. Bush, the descendant of a dynastic Republican family who, in the 1990s, turned out to be on their way to the White House.

Later, Rove, the 43rd President’s greatest political strategist in Austin and Washington, became the subject of two books by Slater and former State Capitol TV reporter James Moore, Bush’s brain and The architect.

In 1985, Slater, then a veteran Associated Press reporter, joined The news‘Austin office as a reporter. The newspaper, then locked in a fight for survival with the Dallas Times Herald, was keen to elevate coverage of Texas, and in particular of state policy.

“I ranked our office number three in Austin when we started to rehabilitate it,” recalls the former. Dallas Morning News editor Robert Mong, then deputy editor. G. Robert Hillman was brought from The Journal-Herald of Dayton, Ohio, as an office manager, recalls Mong. “Hillman knew and really loved Slater, so we took on Slater.” Soon, subway reporters Terrence Stutz (education) and Sam Attlesey (politics) were dispatched from Dallas.

“We came out with the best office,” Mong said.

Slater has spoken at length about the multi-sessional cancellation of the Texas Legislature of the ability of workers, accident victims and medical patients to sue and benefit employers, manufacturers and health care providers for personal injury. workers’ compensation benefits. Rove had played a key role behind the scenes in reversing the weight and fortunes of trial attorneys, who had helped elect a favorable Texas Supreme Court and were a financial staple of the Texas Democratic Party.

After becoming the Austin bureau chief at the end of 1987, Slater focused on unlimited contributions to high-value state political campaigns. He tapped into emerging computer technologies, persuaded Dallas publishers to let him hire research assistants, and created the state’s first searchable campaign finance database, years before the Commission of Texas ethics does not.

Later, Slater reported extensively on the rise of the Christian right and the use of federal grant money by the then Attorney General, now Governor Greg Abbott, to prosecute irregularities in the ballot collections, primarily by defendants in northeast Texas who were African-American. .

In the 2014 race for governor, the last he covered before retiring at the end of that year, Slater wrote a long story debunking aspects of the personal narrative spun by Democratic candidate Wendy Davis, l opponent of Abbott. Davis had described herself as overcoming humble origins.

Slater, who covered George W. Bush’s entire tenure as governor, spent 16 months full-time on the road for The news as Bush was running for the presidency for the first time. No Texas governor had ever won the White House. Slater enjoyed serving as a talker, presenting the nation with Bush’s record in his first elected office – and the nuances of how Bush’s reborn conversion to Christianity as an adult has influenced his conservative political outlook.

Clear, concise writing and rigorous reporting were hallmarks of Slater. A quick wit and a keen dresser, he loved to appear on national TV shows – and even deigned to make “hits” on cable networks. After his retirement in December 2014, he was an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Slater has taught political campaigns, as portrayed in American films, television, and novels. He also taught religion and politics.

In 2015, he told his hometown newspaper in West Virginia, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, that the two favorite races he covered for the Dallas newspaper were Richards’ victorious run for governor in 1990 and the subsequent gubernatorial election, when Bush defeated Richards for re-election in 1994 .

“Ann Richards was the best speaker in a room,” he said. “She was surprisingly funny, smart.”

In 1994, Bush waged a “brilliant” campaign, never personally attacking Richards, Slater said. Bush was engaging and friendly, he recalls. “You couldn’t hate George Bush. You might not like its politics.

Mong, the former editor of The news who is now president of the University of North Texas at Dallas, said Slater “had power” as the newspaper’s senior reporter in Austin.

“He was relentless in pursuing a story,” Mong said. “He told a lot of stories because people trusted him and liked to talk to him.”

Wayne Robert Slater (Bush later bribed the Wayne R. Slater he saw into a journalist’s nickname, “Wayner”) was born in 1947 in Lubbock, where his father Howard graduated from Texas Tech as an engineer. University. When Wayne was in first grade, Howard Slater and his wife, Ouida, moved the family to Parkersburg. There Howard, a mechanical engineer, worked in the DuPont Company plastics plant on the Ohio River.

Wayne Slater met his future wife, Dianne Guff, at Parkersburg High School. They both went to the University of West Virginia, where Wayne earned a journalism degree. He started as a journalist at The Parkersburg Sentry from 1971 to 1973 before spending 10 years with AP, in Charleston, W. Va., Kansas, Illinois and Colorado.

Slater is survived by his wife, Dianne; their son Todd C. Slater of Round Rock and his wife, former Kristina Mayhugh; and three grandchildren. Arrangements were on hold.

Republican candidate for the US Senate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, center, jokes with Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater before the Belo debate begins on Friday night, April 13, 2012 at the WFAA studios in Dallas, Texas . Four GOP prospects are vying for the seat of retired Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.(Brad Loper / Staff Photographer)


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